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Two weeks until deadline, pushback against COVID-19 vaccine mandate continues in Washington

Unvaccinated state employees and health care workers must receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Oct. 4 to be considered fully vaccinated by the Oct. 18 deadline.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Hundreds, if not thousands, gathered outside the Washington state Capitol in Olympia on Sunday to protest the state’s upcoming vaccine mandate that requires workers to prove they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose their job.

“Other people simply want more time to make that decision and not be forced into it,” said protest organizer Tyler Miller.

Monday, Oct. 4, marks two weeks until Gov. Jay Inslee's COVID-19 vaccine mandate takes effect. That’s just enough time for state employees and health care workers to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and be considered fully vaccinated on Oct. 18.

Many at Sunday’s rally said they had already made up their minds.

“We need to stand up. People are losing their jobs because of this decision that is made for them,” said Tyler Hewett, a former hospital worker who said he resigned due to newly imposed vaccine mandates.

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Hundreds of people, many of whom are state employees, say their job is on the line over what should be a personal decision.

“I hope that when the Inslee administration faces the reality of so many workers being terminated - and the services that are going to be impacted - I hope that he is advised to rethink this and back off,” said Miller.

Though government numbers show the mandate is working. According to the state Office of Financial Management, the vaccination rate among state employees jumped nearly 20% between Sept. 6-20.

“This is not an anti-vaccine rally, this do not hold our livelihoods hostage to a choice that is personal,” said Miller.

The consensus among medical experts is that the COVID-19 vaccine has been proven safe and effective. Many at the rally, however, maintain it’s not a choice the government should make.

“People have various reasons for not wanting it," said Miller. "Some people have sound religious reasons for not doing it. Other people have legitimate medical concerns facing the injection."

Though Inslee's order does include some provisions for medical and religious exemptions, most employees will have to prove full vaccination status come Oct.18.